In the discussion on reality, we observed that knowledge acquired through the means of senses and the mind is unreliable, and that there is no more reality in the world we see around us than in a dream. We concluded by noting that true knowledge would be one that transcends the mind and the senses, and that absolute reality would be that which remains changeless across the states of sleep, dream and waking. This reality and the knowledge of it form the subject of our current discussion.
Wise men say that all that is seen has existence only with respect to the seer. When I am driving on a highway and see some water at a distance, I cannot be sure if it is actually water or just a mirage. The reality of the seen is questionable, but what I do know is that my eyes can see the water, which means my eyes are real. The reality of my eyes is ascertained by my mind, which also interprets what the eyes see. In a dream, for example, though our physical eyes may be closed, we are able to see the world created by our mind, using the eyes that are also created by our mind. So there is no reality to the eyes or what the eyes see except through their interpretation by the mind. In other words, the reality of the mind transcends that of the eyes, which in turn transcends the reality of the seen world. The senses and the external world they sense, with its diverse forms, names and descriptions, are all an outward projection of the mind and exist within it.
Where does the mind exist? The mind exists in me. I, the one who “sees” this mind, am the consciousness of being – the awareness that I exist. This awareness, which is independent of and beyond all senses and the mind and all their manifestations, which has always existed and will never cease to exist, is the only absolute reality. When in sleep the mind dissolves, the world that exists in it also vanishes, and all that remains is I. When I dream or wake up, it is in me and from me that the mind rises. Much like waves that rise from and merge back into the sea, the mind exists only as a temporary disturbance in the ocean of uninterrupted consciousness. Just as a television is more real than the images that appear within it in a play of light, this supreme consciousness is the only reality and all else have only an ephemeral existence within it. True knowledge consists in knowing this reality and realizing it as our true identity.
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्य: परम् मन:
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धे:परतस्तु स:
The senses are beyond (their objects), the mind is beyond the senses, the intellect is beyond the mind, and that which is beyond the intellect is Him (Bhagavad Gita III:42)